The Gluteal Muscles

The hips and thighs can move in many different ways due to combinations of lots of muscles, from the muscles of the gluteal region to the muscles of the thigh. The gluteal muscles are located on your backside and move your hip.

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  • Gluteus maximus: This muscle originates on the posterior gluteal line of the ilium (a curved line that runs from the iliac crest to the greater sciatic notch), the sacrum, the coccyx, and the sacrotuberous ligament. It inserts onto the iliotibial tract (band) of the tensor fasciae latae and the gluteal tuberosity of the femur. It’s innervated by the inferior gluteal nerve and extends the thigh (straightens it from a bent or flexed position) and laterally rotates the thigh.

  • Gluteus medius: This muscle originates on the ilium between the anterior and posterior gluteal lines and inserts on the lateral portion of the greater trochanter of the femur. It’s innervated by the superior gluteal nerve. The gluteus medius abducts and medially rotates the thigh, and it also keeps the pelvis level when the opposite leg is raised.

  • Gluteus minimus: This muscle originates between the anterior and posterior gluteal lines of the ilium and inserts onto the anterior surface of the greater trochanter of the femur. It’s innervated by the superior gluteal nerve, and it assists the gluteus medius.

  • Tensor fasciae latae: This muscle originates on the anterior superior iliac spine and iliac crest. It inserts onto the iliotibial tract that inserts into the lateral condyle tibia. It’s innervated by the superior gluteal nerve and helps to abduct and flex the thigh.

  • Piriformis: Originating on the anterior surface of the sacrum, the greater sciatic notch, and the sacrotuberous ligament, this muscle inserts onto the greater trochanter of the femur. It’s innervated by the branches of the first two sacral spinal nerves. The piriformis laterally rotates the thigh when the thigh is in extension and abducts the thigh when it’s flexed.

  • Obturator internus: This muscle originates on the ilium and ischium and inserts onto the greater trochanter of the femur. It’s innervated by the nerve to the obturator internus and works with the piriformis.

  • Superior and inferior gemellus: The superior gemellus originates on the ischial spine, and the inferior gemellus originates on the ischial tuberosity. They both insert onto the greater trochanter. The superior gemellus is innervated by the nerve to the obturator internus, and the inferior gemellus is innervated by the nerve to quadratus femoris. They work with the piriformis and obturator internus to laterally rotate the thigh in extension and abduct the thigh in flexion.

  • Quadratus femoris: This muscle originates on the lateral side of the ischial tuberosity and inserts on the intertrochanteric crest of the femur. It’s innervated by the nerve to the quadratus femoris, and it laterally rotates the thigh.

The muscles that work together to laterally rotate your hip are referred to as the lateral rotators, and they include the piriformis, gemellus superior, obterator internus, gemellus inferior, obturator externus, and quadratus femoris.

Gluteal bursae contain synovial fluid and help to reduce friction between a muscle and its tendon and bone. The gluteal muscles have three bursa:

  • Trochanteric bursa: Lies between the gluteus maximus and the greater trochanter of the femur

  • Ischial bursa: Separates the gluteus maximus from the ischial tuberosity

  • Gluteofemoral bursa: Lies between the iliotibial band and the origin of the vastus lateralis

Bursitis is an inflammation of a bursa, and it can result in pain near the joint area. The trochanteric bursa is the mostly commonly affected bursa of the hip joint. Trochanteric bursitis can cause pain on the lateral part of the hip, which can radiate down the lateral part of the thigh. The pain is often triggered during activities like running, climbing stairs, or getting up from a seated position.

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